Randolph County’s ban of Invisible Man may hurt students seeking AP college credits

News of last week’s vote by Randolph County School Board members to ban Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man from its school libraries has circulated far and wide.

Would school board members have taken this drastic step if they knew that the AP English Literature exam has featured passages from Invisible Man for 13 out of the last 15 years? It’s one of the most frequently referenced texts that require a free-response essay during that time—only surpassed by Great Expectations, according to the College Board.

Since 1955, the AP Program has enabled millions of students to take college-level courses and exams, and to earn college credit or placement while still in high school. More than 32 percent of U.S. public high school students in the class of 2012 took an AP Exam at some point in high school.

At a time when college costs are soaring, many prospective college students rely on AP courses and exams to gain college credit for college-level competencies gained while in high school at a much reduced cost.

Randolph County Schools’ Superintendent, Dr. Stephen Gainey, couldn’t be sure yet if the school board’s vote to remove the book from library shelves would also prohibit teachers from teaching the Invisible Man  in their AP English Lit classrooms. “There is an issue there,” Gainey said, but before addressing it, he wanted to wait to see how the school board votes when they convene Wednesday night to reconsider their move to ban the book from school libraries.

North Carolina Teacher of the Year, Karyn Dickerson, teaches high school English at Grimsley Senior High School in Greensboro. “Books that deal with difficult content are important,” said Dickerson. “With teacher-led discussions in the classroom, hopefully students can carefully process and learn about these issues and, in the future, bring about change to these social injustices.”

Access to books is made much easier today thanks to the Internet and hand-held devices like Kindles and Nooks. Banning a book may compel students to find a way to read it anyway. “Wouldn’t you want your child to read these books with a caring and knowledgeable teacher helping them understand the people and events they have not, and hopefully will not, ever experience?” said Dickerson.

Ellison’s Invisible Man deals with the African American narrator’s search for identity in the context of societal stereotypes and discrimination, along with many other themes. The book won the 1953 National Book Award for fiction, and Time magazine included it in its list of the 100 Best English Language Novels since 1923.


  1. david esmay

    September 23, 2013 at 11:55 am

    One parent in Randolph county imposed her narrow theological view of the world on an entire school district. The Tarheel Taliban’s social engineering at work.

  2. Alan

    September 23, 2013 at 11:55 am

    “However, in a 5-2 vote, the school board voted to ban the book, with one board member, Gary Mason, stating, “I didn’t find any literary value.” Speaks volumes doesn’t it? Why didn’t they just arrange for a book burning at the school board meeting instead, complete with hooded figures & burning crosses?

    Goodness me, next we’ll be banning Sharia Law and ensuring minorities have as difficult a time as possible in voting…, but that wouldn’t happen here, would it?

  3. david esmay

    September 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Amazing ignorance in Hicksville NC, Ellison’s book is a masterpiece that beat out Hemingway’s “The Old Man and The Sea” and Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” for that 1953 award.

  4. Alan

    September 23, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Hemmingway? Steinbeck? Which passage are they in?

  5. Skeptic

    September 23, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    “The Old Man and the Sea” is considered Hemigway’s cheapest, most commercial work. Anyway, Alan is right about everything else. These dumb rednecks need to drop off the face of the earth. Hicks.

  6. Skeptic

    September 23, 2013 at 7:26 pm


  7. RJ

    September 23, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Skeptic drifting that troll bait down the current like Isaac Walton… Please no one rise to it.

  8. Alan

    September 23, 2013 at 8:25 pm


    A little colorful, but exactly to the point and accurate! And they wonder (and complain) when their political opponents, and fellow citizens, refer to them as stupid white trash.

  9. Jay

    September 24, 2013 at 7:16 am

    I’m pretty sure the parent who lodged the complaint was African-American…so the labels of white trash don’t really fit here. Might it have been a response from a certain theological perspective? Perhaps.

  10. Alan

    September 24, 2013 at 9:09 am


    My comment was directed at the school board, not the originator of the complaint. Randolph County School Board membership at link below.


    It’s particularly bad when even conservative magazines such as The National Review carry articles about it entitled “Intellectual Vandalism on the School Board”, see:


    Supporting documentation at link below:


    I have to concur that the rambling complaint lodged by Kimiyutta Parson is barely literate, the irony of which I’m sure is lost on the knuckle-draggers.

  11. Dr. Mary Johnson

    September 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    It is almost funny that Asheboro’s Courier Tribune is whining about banning books when their publisher/Editor make sport out of banning commentary on their stories that challenges the rule/actions of Asheboro/Randolph County’s “right people” (like say, I don’t know, a school board). Almost, but not quite.

    Here is a comment from “Creachture” (my alter) that the Courier would not post:

    “Friends and I (all local) have discussed this at some length. Ironies abound – and we believe there is an undercurrent to this story that deserves a closer look:

    The book-banning thing seems to have been the Randolph County School Board’s (most outsiders will confuse/lump Randolph in with the Asheboro City School Board) way of telling the world to go blow. The-spontaneous-(kinda)-prayer thing at Randleman football games had the school bosses itching to make a bold statement about the-way-“we”-in-these-parts-do-things/what-“we”-in-these-parts-believe . . .and one parent’s letter gave them the chance to take a stand (OBTW, that parent had the right to her opinion – the Board didn’t have to ban the book). The Board was flipping the bird to the ACLU, and telling them they could kiss their tuckuses. The local newspaper (I used the term lightly) ate it up, and the next thing you know, ex-communists in Russia are havign a good belly-laugh at how backward we redneck hicks ALL (key word) are.

    You simply don’t make a statement about free speech/freedom of religion by banning books in schools. And your local newspaper should not boast of the stupid/stupid move like a badge of honor – only to lead the charge in back-tracking days later (this disguised as “investigative journalism” – please, Please, PLEASE don’t let me go there). It’s 2013, and it’s way past the time that the leaders of this town saw the writing on the wall and stopped behaving like a bunch of bullies. The mill-town status quo is in the DNA of this place and it is KILLING us.

    The problems in Asheboro and Randolph County run much deeper than banning books (“Invisible Man” is FICTION people). My point is this: The REAL problem here is about the leaders of this town treat REAL people – erasing them from the landscape if a “right person/group of right people” decides they don’t fit in. There are a LOT of “invisible” people here. Some of are delighted that scorn is now raining down on those who’ve thrown us away and/or looked right through us. From the end of the book:

    ” . . . “I’m shaking off my old skin and I’ll leave it here in the hole. I’m coming out, no less invisible without it, but coming out nevertheless . . . Perhaps that’s my greatest social crime. I’ve overstayed my hibernation, since there’s a possibility that even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play . . . Being invisible and without substance, a disembodied voice, as it were, what else could I do? What else but try to tell you what was really happening when your eyes were looking through? And it is this which frightens me . . . Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you.?

  12. janna hill

    September 25, 2013 at 10:10 am

    One huge problem I see with Ellison’s The Invisible Man is obvious in the introduction when the word ‘n—-r’ leaps off of the page and slaps at tender eyes/ears. One may use the [derogatory] terms such as ‘redneck’, ‘hick’ and ‘white trash’ but we must obliterate the N word at ALL costs.
    [tongue in cheek]

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